Category Archives: Labor Unions

Steward’s Corner: Where Do Good Organizers Come From?

Source: Ellen David Friedman, Labor Notes, February 4, 2019

We know good organizers when we meet them.

They’re accessible. They listen and show respect.

They react calmly to all kinds of people, take their time to size up a situation, and engage people on their own terms.

They brim with suggestions for action, but they’re open to new ideas. They’re not bossy. They always take workers’ side against employers—but among workers, they treat divisions with care and diligence.

They don’t act from fear, and they know how to help others lose their fear.

But few people are born organizers. Instead, we have to find and nurture people who show some interest and willingness to become organizers.

An experiment in Ithaca, New York, over the last two years has shown surprising results in helping workers become organizers, with a method easy to adapt and reproduce anywhere….

The Resurrection of American Labor

Source: Janet Paskin, Bloomberg Businessweek, February 7, 2019

Traditional unions may be stymied, but workers are finding new ways to organize….

According to the official records, U.S. workers went on strike seven times during 2017. That’s a particular nadir in the long decline of organized labor: the second-fewest work stoppages recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics since the agency started keeping track in the 1940s.

There was little reason to believe 2018 would be different, especially with the U.S. Supreme Court, in two decisions, making it harder for public employees unions to fund themselves and restricting workers’ rights to bring class actions. The power of employers appeared to be almost limitless. The unions were, if not busted, then certainly on the verge.

Aggrieved workers, however, took matters into their own hands, using social media and other tech tools to enhance their campaigns. From industry walkouts to wildcat teachers’ strikes, they made very public demands of their employers. The official number of major work stoppages recorded by the BLS in 2018 nearly tripled, to 20. Off the picket line, workers also won a wide range of concessions. Facing employee pressure, Google and McKinsey & Co. dropped contracts for government work employees found objectionable; thousands of dismissed Toys “R” Us workers got a severance fund; and Starbucks Corp. expanded parental and sick leave policies.

In many cases, workers and their advocates bypassed their employers entirely…..

Seattle General Strike: Labor’s Most Spectacular Revolt

Source: Cal Winslow, Labor Notes, February 6, 2019

On February 6, 1919, Seattle’s workers struck—all of them. In doing so they took control of the city.

The strike was in support of 35,000 shipyard workers, then in conflict with the city’s shipyard owners and the federal government’s U.S. Shipping Board, which was still enforcing wartime wage agreements.

The strike rendered the authorities virtually powerless. There was indeed no power that could challenge the workers. There were soldiers in the city, and many more at nearby Camp Lewis, not to mention thousands of newly enlisted, armed deputies—but to unleash these on a peaceful city? The regular police were reduced to onlookers; the generals hesitated.

Seattle’s Central Labor Council, representing 110 unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), called the strike. The CLC’s Union Record reported 65,000 union members on strike—a general strike, the first and only of its kind in the U.S. Perhaps as many as 100,000 people participated…..

Everything You Need to Know About General Strikes

Source: Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, No Class, January 24, 2019

The word strike seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. Workers across the world have been striking to protest poor working conditions, to speak out against sexual harassment, and to jumpstart stalled union negotiations. And as we just saw with the Los Angeles teachers’ successful large-scale strike, which spanned six school days, strikers have been winning. Despite the shot of energy that organized strikes have injected into the labor movement, many people aren’t content with run-of-the-mill work stoppages, or even with more militant wildcat strikes…..

….. So what does it all mean? How is a general strike different from a planned, industry-specific work stoppage; why are people interested in the idea now; and what would one look like in 2019? …..

Red State Strikes and the Roots of Teacher Militancy

Source: Jon Shelton, LAWCHA: The Labor and Working-Class History Association Newsletter, 2018

…. These strikes were among the most important victories in the US in recent history, a clear victory for communities decimated by years of Republican-led austerity. Further, the cross-district teacher strikes this past spring seemed especially shocking because of the right’s decades-long characterization of teacher unions as inimical to the interests of the nation’s children, there has actually been labor peace among teachers and school districts going back 30 years now. The strike wave surprised many observers, particularly since they took place in conservative, “right-to-work” states where public employee strikes are illegal. Yet this new era of teacher unionism builds on a long history of teacher militancy. ….

ALEC’s New Union-Busting Toolkit Illustrates the Goal Is to Bankrupt Unions Not Protect Workers

Source: Mary Bottari, PR Watch, January 22, 2019

It’s becoming an annual ritual. The Koch-funded cluster of groups, which has long abused their 501(c)3 IRS “charitable” designation by working to destroy political enemies, has concocted another “union busting” toolkit, giving ammunition and guidance to Republican politicians on how to attack and dismantle a major funder of the Democratic Party.

The toolkit appears to have been prepared by American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) staff shortly after the Supreme Court’s June 2018 Janus vs. AFSCME decision, which held that unions could no longer require individuals in a bargaining unit who did not want to be members of a union to pay agency or “fair share” fees. Fair share fees compensate union staff who are required by law to represent all workers in a bargaining unit in their quest for better wages and working conditions.

ALEC is a collection of state politicians and corporate lobbyists from many of the largest corporations in the country. The Janus case was spearheaded by ALEC’s sister group, the $80 million State Policy Network (SPN), made up of 66 right-wing think tanks and other Koch-funded institutions. ….

…. The toolkit touts ALEC’s 18 anti-union bills, including the misnamed “right to work” bill, and highlights a new post-Janus bill, the “Public Employee Rights and Authorization Act,” which states: “Any authorization of payments to a labor organization provided before June 27, 2018 [the day of the Janus ruling], is insufficient to constitute affirmative consent or a waiver of an employee’s rights under Janus v. AFSCME.” ….

America’s Teachers Are Furious

Source: Alia Wong, The Atlantic, January 22, 2019

From West Virginia to Los Angeles, educators are ushering in a new era of labor activism.

Related:
Political payback for the statewide teacher walkout?
Source: Andrea Eger, Tulsa World, January 22, 2019

Slew of newly filed bills aim to punish, limit future protests.

After LA’s Strike, “Nothing Will Be the Same”
AN INTERVIEW WITH ARLENE INOUYE
Source: Eric Blanc, Jacobin, January 23, 2019

The Los Angeles teachers’ strike was big, it was united, and now it’s victorious. We interview UTLA chief negotiator Arlene Inouye about how the strike turned the tables on the billionaire privatizers.

Los Angeles Teachers Strike for Higher Wages and Smaller Classes
Source: Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg Businessweek, January 18, 2019

The district has lost enrollment to declining birthrates, rising housing costs, and charter schools.

Three Unions Show There’s Life Beyond Dues Checkoff

Source: Chris Brooks, Labor Notes, January 7, 2019

Employers are always looking for sources of leverage. One way they may hit a union in the wallet is by targeting dues checkoff—an agreement that requires the employer to deduct dues from union members’ paychecks.

Anti-union politicians have already banned dues checkoff for public sector union members in Wisconsin and for teachers in Alabama and Michigan—and have threatened to do so in many more states, including Indiana, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania. Their goal is to make the administration of the union as cumbersome as possible, sapping time and energy.

Rather than let employers and politicians dangle this sword over them indefinitely, a few unions have chosen to take the matter into their own hands, ditching checkoff in favor of collecting dues themselves. The most common method is to have members voluntarily agree to allow the union to transfer funds from their bank accounts.

Other unions, such as Tennessee’s United Campus Workers, never had checkoff as an option to begin with. Here are some lessons from three unions that don’t rely on the boss to collect their dues…..